LAB: MTV EDITING

DESCRIPTION: Study of "MTV-editing" trends by analysis of MTV Video Music Award winners and nominees for Best Editing.

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Cinemetrics lab is the latest addition to our site, and is still work in progress. When finished, the lab is envisaged to offer students of film history a range of analytical tools that will help them dissect, visualize and compare film-related data. We started with a large-scale comparative chart which looks a little like a star map. It is a scattergraph each dot on which represents a film available on our database. Select areas by dragging a rectangle to zoom in and see better different areas of film history. Once you have found your film on this map you will see how it relates to thousands of other films on the x-axis of time (past 111 years of film history) and on the y-axis of average shot lengths. What we intend to do is to add more tools to the lab in order to augment its statistics apparatus and enhance its means of data visualizations.

Year/ASL chart. Note the Log10 scale on the y-axis. It allows us to see all films in the very widely spread high ASL range.

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This lab's films are shown in yellow.
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List of films in this lab:

"Boulevard of Broken Dreams" (Green Day Music Video): (7) ASL 1.3
"Smiley Faces" (Gnarls Barkley Music Video): (7) ASL 2.9
"Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" (Beyonce Music Video): (7) ASL 4.9
"Bad Romance" (Lady Gaga Music Video): (7) ASL 1.2
"Rolling in the Deep" (Adele Music Video): (7) ASL 1.3
"Countdown" (Beyonce Music Video): (7) ASL 1.1
"Mirrors" (Justin Timberlake Music Video): (7) ASL 3
"Scream" (Michael Jackson Music Video): (7) ASL 1.1
"Rockit" (Herbie Hancock Music Video): (7) ASL 2
"Close (To the Edit)" (Art of Noise Music Video, Version 1): (7) ASL 2.8
"The Sun Always Shines on TV" (A-ha Music Video): (7) ASL 1.1
"Straight Up" (Paula Abdul Music Video): (7) ASL 0.9
"Vogue" (Madonna Music Video): (7) ASL 1.2
"Losing My Religion" (R.E.M. Music Video): (7) ASL 1.5
"Right Now" (Van Halen Music Video): (7) ASL 4.5
"Steam" (Peter Gabriel Music Video): (7) ASL 3.1
"Everybody Hurts" (R.E.M. Music Video): (7) ASL 3.3
"Buddy Holly" (Weezer Music Video): (7) ASL 2.8
"Ironic" (Alanis Morissette Music Video): (7) ASL 2.8
"Devils Haircut" (Beck Music Video): (7) ASL 2.4
"Ray of Light" (Madonna Music Video): (7) ASL 0.9
"Freak on a Leash" (Korn Music Video): (7) ASL 1.1
"Weapon of Choice" (Fatboy Slim Music Video): (7) ASL 6.2
"Seven Nation Army" (The White Stripes Music Video): (7) ASL 233.3
"Sledgehammer" (Peter Gabriel Music Video): (7) ASL 5.7
"Fell in Love with a Girl" (The White Stripes Music Video): (7) ASL 1.7
"Need You Tonight/Mediate" (INXS Music Video): (7) ASL 21.8
"99 Problems" (Jay-Z Music Video): (7) ASL 0.7
"Save Me" (Aimee Mann Music Video): (7) ASL 34
Paparazzi (music video): (7) ASL 1.1
Bad Romance (music video): (7) ASL 1.4
"Legs" (ZZ Top Music Video): (7) ASL 1.2
"Basket Case" (Green Day Music Video): (7) ASL 1.6
"Waterfalls" (TLC Music Video): (7) ASL 1.2
"Leave Me Alone" (Michael Jackson Music Video): (7) ASL 10.6
"Express Yourself" (Madonna Music Video): (7) ASL 1.1
"Real Love" (Jody Watley Music Video): (7) ASL 0.9
"Roll with It" (Steve Winwood Music Video): (7) ASL 1.4
"Janie's Got a Gun" (Aerosmith Music Video): (7) ASL 1.2
"U Can't Touch This" (MC Hammer Music Video): (7) ASL 1.1
"I Do" (Blaque Music Video): (7) ASL 1.2
"The Real Slim Shady" (Eminem Music Video): (7) ASL 1.8
"I Disappear" (Metallica Music Video): (7) ASL 0.9
"The Reflex" (Duran Duran Music Video): (7) ASL 1.2
"Eyes Without a Face" (Billy Idol Music Video): (7) ASL 4.1
"I'm Still Standing" (Elton John Music Video): (7) ASL 1.9
"Every Breath You Take" (The Police Music Video): (7) ASL 8.1
"Sharp Dressed Man" (ZZ Top Music Video): (7) ASL 1.7
"The Great Beyond" (R.E.M. Music Video): (7) ASL 1.4
"I Kissed a Girl" (Jill Sobule Music Video): (7) ASL 1.3
"Crazy" (Gnarls Barkley Music Video): (7) ASL 29.8
"The End of the Innocence" (Don Henley Music Video): (7) ASL 6
"Run to You" (Bryan Adams Music Video): (7) ASL 1.7
"Go Insane" (Lindsey Buckingham Music Video): (7) ASL 2
"Slow Dancing" (Lindsey Buckingham Music Video): (7) ASL 3
"Would I Lie to You?" (Eurythmics Music Video): (7) ASL 4
"Money for Nothing" (Dire Straits Music Video): (7) ASL 1.7
"Burning House of Love" (X Music Video): (7) ASL 3.4
"Sex as a Weapon" (Pat Benatar Music Video): (7) ASL 2.2
"Rough Boy" (ZZ Top Music Video): (7) ASL 3.4
"Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)" (C+C Music Factory Music Video): (7) ASL 1.3
"Groove Is in the Heart" (Deee-Lite Music Video): (7) ASL 3.8
"Wicked Game (Concept)" (Chris Isaak Music Video): (7) ASL 2.5
"Freedom! '90" (George Michael Music Video): (7) ASL 1.3
"Crazy" (Seal Music Video): (7) ASL 3
"My Lovin' (You're Never Gonna Get It)" (En Vogue Music Video): (7) ASL 0.7
"Enter Sandman" (Metallica Music Video): (7) ASL 0.3
"Give It Away" (Red Hot Chili Peppers Music Video): (7) ASL 2.2
"Even Better Than the Real Thing" (U2 Music Video): (7) ASL 1.4
"Sleeping Satellite" (Tasmin Archer Music Video): (7) ASL 1.7
"Shock to the System" (Billy Idol Music Video): (7) ASL 0.6
"Man on the Moon" (R.E.M. Music Video): (7) ASL 2.3
"Wanted Dead or Alive" (Bon Jovi Music Video): (7) ASL 1.9
"Missionary Man" (Eurythmics Music Video): (7) ASL 2.9
"C'est La Vie" (Robbie Nevil Music Video): (7) ASL 3
"With or Without You" (U2 Music Video): (7) ASL 3.9
"Higher Love" (Steve Winwood Music Video): (7) ASL 1.4
"Devil Inside" (INXS Music Video): (7) ASL 1.2
"Notorious" (Loverboy Music Video): (7) ASL 1
"U Got the Look" (Prince feat. Sheena Easton Music Video): (7) ASL 1.8
"Tunnel of Love" (Bruce Springsteen Music Video): (7) ASL 3.3
"Amazing" (Aerosmith Music Video): (7) ASL 1.3
"Human Behaviour" (Bjork Music Video): (7) ASL 1.9
"Sweet Lullaby" (Deep Forest Music Video): (7) ASL 1.8
"Kiss That Frog" (Peter Gabriel Music Video): (7) ASL 2.9
"Backwater" (Meat Puppets Music Video): (7) ASL 0.8
"Disarm" (The Smashing Pumpkins Music Video): (7) ASL 2.2
"Vasoline" (Stone Temple Pilots Music Video, X Version): (7) ASL 1.9
"Warped" (Red Hot Chili Peppers Music Video): (7) ASL 1.8
"Where It's At" (Beck Music Video): (7) ASL 3.3
"Tonight, Tonight" (The Smashing Pumpkins Music Video): (7) ASL 2.6
"Virtual Insanity" (Jamiroquai Music Video): (7) ASL 234.7
"The End Is the Beginning Is the End" (The Smashing Pumpkins Music Video): (7) ASL 2.8
"One Headlight" (The Wallflowers Music Video): (7) ASL 1.8
"I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" (Aerosmith Music Video): (7) ASL 1.3
"Push It" (Garbage Music Video): (7) ASL 0.9
"Smack My Bitch Up" (The Prodigy Music Video, Uncensored Version): (7) ASL 1.2
"Changes" (2Pac Music Video): (7) ASL 1
"Believe" (Cher Music Video): (7) ASL 1.2
"No Scrubs" (TLC Music Video): (7) ASL 1.6
"Get Ur Freak On" (Missy Elliot Music Video): (7) ASL 1
"Pop" (*NSYNC Music Video): (7) ASL 0.8
"Elevation (Tomb Raider Mix)" (U2 Music Video): (7) ASL 1.3
"One Minute Man" (Missy Elliot feat. Ludacris and Trina Music Video): (7) ASL 1.2
"Without Me" (Eminem Music Video): (7) ASL 1.4
"Chop Suey!" (System of a Down Music Video): (7) ASL 1.2
"Hurt" (Johnny Cash Music Video): (7) ASL 1.6
"Work It" (Missy Elliot Music Video): (7) ASL 0.9
"Freetime" (Kenna Music Video): (7) ASL 3.7
"There there." (Radiohead Music Video): (7) ASL 4.1
"Are You Gonna Be My Girl" (Jet Music Video): (7) ASL 1.4
"Perfect" (Simple Plan Music Video): (7) ASL 1.2
"The Hardest Button to Button" (The White Stripes Music Video): (7) ASL 0.5
"Maps" (Yeah Yeah Yeahs Music Video): (7) ASL 3.3
"Speed of Sound" (Coldplay Music Video): (7) ASL 1
"Best of You" (Foo Fighters Music Video): (7) ASL 1
"Get Right" (Jennifer Lopez Music Video): (7) ASL 1.2
"Untitled (How Could This Happen to Me)" (Simple Plan Music Video): (7) ASL 1.5
"What You Waiting For?" (Gwen Stefani Music Video, Short Version): (7) ASL 0.9
"Move Along" (The All-American Rejects Music Video): (7) ASL 0.5
"The Adventure" (Angels & Airwaves Music Video): (7) ASL 2.5
"Dani California" (Red Hot Chili Peppers Music Video): (7) ASL 1.5
"Original of the Species" (U2 Music Video): (7) ASL 2.2
"Beautiful Liar" (Beyonce and Shakira Music Video): (7) ASL 0.9
"What I've Done" (Linkin Park Music Video): (7) ASL 1
"What Goes Around... Comes Around" (Justin Timberlake Music Video): (7) ASL 2.6
"Stronger" (Kanye West Music Video): (7) ASL 0.8
"I Will Possess Your Heart" (Death Cab for Cutie Music Video): (7) ASL 2.4
"Pork and Beans" (Weezer Music Video): (7) ASL 1.8
"Honey" (Erykah Badu Music Video): (7) ASL 4.8
"Closer" (Ne-Yo Music Video): (7) ASL 0.9
"I Kissed a Girl" (Katy Perry Music Video): (7) ASL 1.4
"Viva la Vida" (Coldplay Music Video): (7) ASL 1.4
"7 Things" (Miley Cyrus Music Video): (7) ASL 0.9
"Paparazzi" (Lady Gaga Music Video): (7) ASL 0.8
"Circus" (Britney Spears Music Video): (7) ASL 1.1
"Not Afraid" (Eminem Music Video): (7) ASL 1.2
"Animal" (Miike Snow Music Video): (7) ASL 0.8
"Funhouse" (Pink Music Video): (7) ASL 2
"Rude Boy" (Rihanna Music Video): (7) ASL 1.3
"Hurricane" (30 Seconds to Mars Music Video, Uncensored Version): (7) ASL 1.4
"Simple Math" (Manchester Orchestra Music Video): (7) ASL 1.8
"E.T." (Katy Perry feat. Kanye West Music Video): (7) ASL 2
"All of the Lights" (Kanye West feat. Rihanna and Kid Cudi Music Video): (7) ASL 0.5
"Goldie" (ASAP Rocky Music Video): (7) ASL 0.8
"Somebody That I Used to Know" (Gotye feat. Kimbra Music Video): (7) ASL 3.8
"Paris" (Jay-Z and Kanye West Music Video): (7) ASL 1.3
"Mercy" (Kanye West feat. Pusha T, Big Sean & 2 Chainz Music Video): (7) ASL 323.4
"We Can't Stop" (Miley Cyrus Music Video): (7) ASL 1.6
"Sweet Nothing" (Calvin Harris feat. Florence Welch Music Video): (7) ASL 2.1
"Can't Hold Us" (Macklemore and Ryan Lewis feat. Ray Dalton Music Video): (7) ASL 1.8
"Just Give Me a Reason" (Pink feat. Nate Ruess Music Video): (7) ASL 1.7
"Tamale" (Tyler, The Creator Music Video): (7) ASL 3.6
"Rap God" (Eminem Music Video): (7) ASL 0.9
"Pretty Hurts" (Beyonce Music Video): (7) ASL 2.1
"The Walker" (Fitz and the Tantrums Music Video): (7) ASL 1.3
"Your Life Is a Lie" (MGMT Music Video): (7) ASL 1.2

Notes.

Winners are listed at the bottom by year.

With all of the nominees analyzed, a clear picture is painted with fast cutting in music videos becoming more and more commonplace. The normal cutting rate has always been between 1-2 seconds, but videos with slightly slower cutting (3-5 seconds) have become infrequent over the last decade. An ASL around 1.2, still unthinkable in feature films, was used in MTV for at least 30 years and is now widely implemented and highly encouraged-- so much so that I perceived 2013's nominees as being "slow". If young moviegoers are still watching music videos, it's easy to see why cinema editing is still speeding up!

This analysis can get somewhat subjective as the art/experimental nature of music videos allows a liberal use of vertical editing (INXS' "Need You Tonight/Mediate" and The White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army" as big examples), along with the occasional usage of still frames and pixilation effects. For the most part, pixilation effects were not counted as shot changes but jump cuts were (The White Stripes' "The Hardest Button to Button" is a video that contains both and its ASL could be argued as undefinable). Still frames depended on context, where a step-printed sequence would be considered one shot but a rapid progression of discrete photographs would be, in my opinion, a shot change (this is probably the reason why my analysis of Jonas Akerlund's video of Lady Gaga's "Paparazzi" concluded an ASL of 0.8 while Charles O'Brien's 2009 analysis was 1.1).

 

Overall numbers (as of 2014):

Number of Videos Analyzed: 155
Median ASL: 1.6
Mean: 7.57
Mode: 1.2
Videos with ASL 2 or Lower: 98 (63.23%)
Videos with ASL 3 or Higher: 29 (18.71%)
Videos with ASL 7 or Higher: 8 (5.16%)
Videos with ASL 1 or Lower: 24 (15.48%)
Years when the Slowest Nominated Video Won: 14
Years when the Fastest Nominated Video Won: 5

 

Other notes:

-As would be expected, most of the winners had an ASL of two or lower, but spans of several years (namely the mid-80's and mid-90's) exist where music videos with slower cutting rates (2.8-4.5 seconds) won Best Editing.
-The only slow-cut winner without post-production composite effects is the Paul Thomas Anderson-directed video to Aimee Mann's "Save Me", which contains only eight shots. Every video it was competing against had an ASL below 2 seconds ("The Real Slim Shady" at 1.8, "The Great Beyond" at 1.4, "I Do" at 1.2 and "I Disappear" at 0.9. "Save Me" was 34).
-This would have also been true for Beyonce's "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" were it not for a series of rapid cuts halfway through the otherwise conservatively-edited video.
-It appears the first two winners, 1984's "Rockit" and 1985's "Close (To the Edit)" were shot and edited on analog video and contain a liberal use of jog/shuttle effects. These were not counted as shot changes, especially in the case of "Rockit" where it was an element of its choreography.
- This particular curve appears to be a favorite among the judges. At least nine Best Editing winners have curves that look similar to this one, the earliest in 1986 ("The Sun Always Shines on TV", ASL 1.1) and the latest being 2012's "Countdown" (also ASL 1.1).
-The fastest-cut winner is 2004's "99 Minutes" (Jay-Z, directed by Mark Romanek), with an ASL of 0.7. The fastest-cut nominee is Metallica's "Enter Sandman" (Mark Isham, nominated in 1992), at a staggeringly fast ASL of 0.3 largely due to its nonstop strobe effects including overlays, and is one video that most certainly edits to the beat. The only video that came remotely close to competing against it was Kanye West's "Turn On the Lights" (ASL 0.5), although its strobe effects were spread out and its fast-cut segments at a per-frame level (this mixed with rapid-cut color tints resulted in the video's Epilepsy Action disclaimer).
-If the average modern feature film has an ASL of 3 seconds, it would take a little over 50 minutes to reach the same amount of cuts as "Enter Sandman".
-MTV has nominated three single-shot videos for Best Editing, including one winner: "Seven Nation Army" in 2003, which has many clips edited into the video but are compiled into a never-ending abstract tunnel. The two other nominees are more interesting in this regard as they are true one-shot videos- 2012's "Mercy" and 1997's "Virtual Insanity", focused entirely on the performers and the sets they occupy. Camera moves where edits can be concealed are slow in both videos, and their Best Editing nominations were likely due to the painstaking work required to disguise them.

 

MTV Video Music Award Winners for Best Editing

1984 - "Rockit" (Herbie Hancock Music Video): (7)  ASL 2 
1985 - "Close (To the Edit)" (Art of Noise Music Video, Version 1): (7)  ASL 2.8 
1986 - "The Sun Always Shines on TV" (A-ha Music Video): (7)  ASL 1.1 
1987 - "Sledgehammer" (Peter Gabriel Music Video): (7)  ASL 5.7 
1988 - "Need You Tonight/Mediate" (INXS Music Video): (7)  ASL 21.8 
1989 - "Straight Up" (Paula Abdul Music Video): (7)  ASL 0.9 
1990 - "Vogue" (Madonna Music Video): (7)  ASL 1.2 
1991 - "Losing My Religion" (R.E.M. Music Video): (7)  ASL 1.5 
1992 - "Right Now" (Van Halen Music Video): (7)  ASL 4.5 
1993 - "Steam" (Peter Gabriel Music Video): (7)  ASL 3.1
1994 - "Everybody Hurts" (R.E.M. Music Video): (7)  ASL 3.3 
1995 - "Buddy Holly" (Weezer Music Video): (7)  ASL 2.8 
1996 - "Ironic" (Alanis Morissette Music Video): (7)  ASL 2.8 
1997 - "Devils Haircut" (Beck Music Video): (7)  ASL 2.4 
1998 - "Ray of Light" (Madonna Music Video): (7)  ASL 0.9 
1999 - "Freak on a Leash" (Korn Music Video): (7)  ASL 1.1 
2000 - "Save Me" (Aimee Mann Music Video): (7)  ASL 34 
2001 - "Weapon of Choice" (Fatboy Slim Music Video): (7)  ASL 6.2 
2002 - "Fell in Love with a Girl" (The White Stripes Music Video): (7)  ASL 1.7 
2003 - "Seven Nation Army" (The White Stripes Music Video): (7)  ASL 233.3 
2004 - "99 Problems" (Jay-Z Music Video): (7)  ASL 0.7 
2005 - "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" (Green Day Music Video): (7)  ASL 1.3 
2006 - "Crazy" (Gnarls Barkley Music Video): (7)  ASL 29.8
2007 - "Smiley Faces" (Gnarls Barkley Music Video): (7)  ASL 2.9 
2008 - "I Will Possess Your Heart" (Death Cab for Cutie Music Video): (7)  ASL 2.4
2009 - "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" (Beyonce Music Video): (7)  ASL 4.9 
2010 - "Bad Romance" (Lady Gaga Music Video): (7)  ASL 1.2   
2011 - "Rolling in the Deep" (Adele Music Video): (7)  ASL 1.3 
2012 - "Countdown" (Beyonce Music Video): (7)  ASL 1.1 
2013 - "Mirrors" (Justin Timberlake Music Video): (7)  ASL 3 
2014 - "Rap God" (Eminem Music Video): (7)  ASL 0.9